By Tara ChristiansenThe American Quarter Horse JournalMay 23, 2011
Stressed horses that have an impaired immune system, such as horses traveling long distances to shows and then stressed at the shows, are more likely to contract EHV-1. Journal photo.
“This was the perfect storm of viruses,” Dr. Chris Morrow says of the equine herpesvirus-1 myeloencephalopathy outbreak.
According to Dr. Morrow, of Mobile Veterinary Practice in Amarillo, most horses are exposed to EHV-1 at some time in their life and might show little to no clinical signs of carrying the virus, such as an elevated temperature, nasal discharge through both nostrils, wobbly hind legs and urine dribbling. He also clarified that it is the present neurological strain of EHV-1 that causes a significant debilitating disease that can be fatal, especially if not treated.
To aid an exposed horse’s immune system in the fight against EHV-1, Dr. Morrow suggests that horse owners create a stress-free environment for the horse. A horse’s immune system is greatly weakened when the horse is stressed, so cutting back on training and hauling during the height of the EHV-1 outbreak will give the horse the chance to strengthen his immune system in the next several weeks.
There are several things that horse owners who hope to travel and compete this summer should keep in mind to protect their horses, says Dr. Morrow. These include:
If you plan on lying low until the mania of EHV-1 has calmed down, Dr. Morrow suggests several measures to take on a daily basis at home. These include:
“Everything went right at the wrong time,” says Dr. Morrow, referring to the conditions that triggered the EHV-1 outbreak. He notes that the horses that have fared the worst, in terms of the virus, are “high performers,” meaning horses that compete at a high level and that might face higher stress levels than some of their counterparts. It’s these horses that especially need the extra help to strengthen their immune systems against EHV-1.
Mobile Veterinary Practice hosted a health seminar on Thursday, May 19, to educate Amarillo-area horse owners on the EHV-1 outbreak. Many veterinary practices across the country are hosting similar seminars. Contact your local veterinary clinic to see if it is hosting similar seminars or check out thehorse.com's EHV-1 educational webinar.
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